RWTH – University of Excellence


The Integrated Interdisciplinary University of Science and Technology Knowledge. Impact. Networks.

Application for the Universities of Excellence Copyright: RWTH Aachen



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By the beginning of this third round of the Excellence Initiative – the Excellence Strategy – RWTH has already developed into an Integrated Interdisciplinary University for Science and Technology, focusing on the convergence of knowledge, methods, and insights. It now aims to create a unique national and international educational, research, and transfer environment with dynamic research networks that transcend individual disciplines and organizational boundaries.

In its successful application for the Universities of Excellence funding line, RWTH identified and elaborated a total of ten measures that will be crucial for further developing as an Integrated Interdisciplinary University of Science and Technology.


Measures for the Excellence Initiative

Measure 1 – Strengthen and Expand Disciplines

The focus here is on strengthening both life sciences and simulation and data sciences. RWTH also plans to establish several professorships to advance research and the University's international visibility in these disciplines.

Measure 2 – Accelerate Integration

Three key areas of focus are intended to support and accelerate the integration of interdisciplinary research. This includes the Exploratory Research Space, ERS for short, with its well-established ERS Seed Funds, the new format of the flexible ERS Prep Funds, and the promotion of ERS projects with international partners in the International Research Space, IRS for short.

Meanwhile, each self-organized center will work on a core research program in a bottom-up process that uses state-of-the-art infrastructure and a unique research network.

Last but not least, the profile areas will be strengthened as they are the most important interdisciplinary structure. In future, the profile areas will be included in the planning of new professorships and the formation of alliances with external institutions and industry.

Measure 3 – Internationalize Frontier Research

The Kármán Conferences that were established under Institutional Strategy II will be continued so that current research topics will keep being promoted in an interdisciplinary and internationally visible manner.

In addition, writing workshops on online collaborations, team writing, and interdisciplinary communication will be supported.

A variety of initiatives to promote internationalization are also reflected in all the other measures, emphasizing the relevance of internationally-oriented research throughout the University.

Measure 4 – Stimulate Open Science

In accordance with its digitalization strategy, RWTH will use a consistent research data management system to make data generated at the University easier to find, as well as more accessible, interoperable, and reusable.

The aim is to lead the German and international scientific landscape with this effective use of resources and knowledge and to encourage greater participation in research. To this end, RWTH will continue to expand its personnel and technical infrastructure.

Measure 5 – Collaborate in Living Labs

In future, innovative research will be conducted in so-called Living Labs and involve members of the public and other groups.

RWTH hopes that this will lead to a close cooperation between science and civil society, which will not only ensure greater transparency and more acceptance, but also offer meaningful solutions to complex problems.

One of these Living Labs will be dedicated to the topic of Responsible Research & Innovation, or RRI for short, and particularly involve students in interdisciplinary research teams together with non-profit organizations.

Measure 6 – Nurture Talents & Teams – Boost People

To acquire the brightest brains, RWTH will continue to expand its proactive, target-group-specific personnel recruitment strategy.

In the newly established Advanced Research Opportunity Program – AROP for short, international doctoral candidates and postdocs will have the opportunity to participate in short-term research projects at RWTH thanks to available travel grants.

In addition, RWTH will offer Junior Principal Investigator – JPI Fellowships, which will enable outstanding young researchers to conduct research at the University for a period of four to five years.

In the interest of boosting female and international representation, 70 percent of the fellowships will be allocated to international researchers and at least 30 percent to female researchers. The JPIs will be specially prepared for highly competitive personal funding programs offered by the German Research Foundation – DFG and the European Research Council – ERC. The RWTH Center for Young Academics coordinates both standardized and individually tailored training and continuing education for young researchers.

Measure 7 – Research-Oriented Teaching

RWTH supports interdisciplinary education for young researchers, so that students can expand their expertise beyond the boundaries of their disciplines.

In the Honors College, exceptionally talented students are identified and individually supported. With the help of their personal mentor, Master's students can determine their own curriculum to the greatest possible extent and adapt it with a view to pursuing doctoral studies at a later stage.

To promote self-determination among students, RWTH is also planning a series of digital formats for online learning as part of its digitalization strategy for teaching, so that courses, materials, and research findings can be accessed online at any time.

The University will also encourage teachers to improve their teaching by providing the Exploratory Lecturer Space from its own funds for research-oriented teaching and innovative teaching methods upon request.

Measure 8 – Stimulate Entrepreneurial Transfer

To encourage entrepreneurship, this measure focuses on the development of personal entrepreneurial skills and structural support for entrepreneurial transfer.

This development will be enhanced by the newly founded RWTH Innovation GmbH, the Collective Incubator – part of the application for the Excellence Start-up Center.NRW – and the Frontier Workshops, in which representatives from business and society discuss future requirements in topics relevant to the profile areas.

The Knowledge Hub will be set up to ensure that knowledge is transferred from RWTH to the public. It acts as an essential component of the desired Open Science culture.

Measure 9 – Evolve and Mature Strong Alliances

To further deepen the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance, JARA for short, the JARA sections will be connected even more closely to structures at RWTH and Forschungszentrum Jülich, FZJ for short, for example in the profile areas.

In addition to institutionalizing important research areas and coordinating funding procedures, RWTH and FZJ have also agreed on joint professorship appointments.

Besides cooperating with FZJ, RWTH also aims to intensify cooperations with other non-university research institutions, such as institutes from the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Leibniz Association, and the Max Planck Society.

Measure 10 – Tune Agile Governance

The basis for the successful implementation of measures 1 to 9 is agile governance, which particularly stands out for responsiveness and the ability to renew, react quickly, and cooperate.

To ensure cross-faculty planning and structural development, the Dean's Council will be replaced by the Planning and Allocation Committee – PAC in future, in which all deans and members of the Rector’s office are represented.

PAC is supported by the Scientific Strategy Board in content-related matters. The allocation of funds from the ERS funding system and the Strategy Fund provides incentives for university-wide participation in the implementation of RWTH's strategy and promotes new ideas.

A particular focus is on the establishment of joint infrastructure platforms, interdisciplinary centers, new organizational structures, and the rapid restructuring of subject areas and chairs.